Every photographer starts out brand new–fresh from the egg and just opening their eyes and not knowing a whole lot. And every photographer needs to do exploring, experimentation and overall has to go on a journey of self discovery to find where they fit in in the world of art. But getting there can be very tough and you’re bound to experience ups and downs as wells as the crazy and the surreal. Unfortunately too, some of us may just lose the spark.
But here’s how you can start to find your way as a photographer
Forget the Trolls
So many new photographers get discouraged by trolls over and over again. It’s very easy to get intimidated and hurt by folks that do nothing other than hide behind a computer, but you shouldn’t let them hurt you. That’s all that they’re going to want to do because somewhere deep down inside, they’re hurting too.
We’re not at all saying that you shouldn’t put your images online at all, in fact we think that you should join as many communities as you can. There are great ones like Lattice, Flickr, 500px, Instagram and EyeEm. But you should fully acknowledge something right out of the gate: your images are going to suck.
Yes, we’re not kidding.
It’s incredibly rare for someone to be a savant in the art world in their first take or two. Trust us, the photographer in you that survives years down the road will look back at those images and realize just how far you’ve come.
You may really like landscapes because they’re really easy to do, but how about trying out food photography or portraits? Every photographer should try every genre and shouldn’t discriminate against a single one. Coin yourself as a “natural light photographer?” Go try out lights and start thinking about them in a new way.
When you move from genre to genre you begin to experience new things and start learning new methods of shooting. You’ll soon realize that that wide angle lens that you love so much may not be the most flattering lens to use when photographing a loved one.
By shooting and experimenting with every genre, you’ll figure out what’s best for you and experience new things. You could be scared of working with someone to take their portrait, but you should at least give it your best shot before you let it go altogether.
Become Someone’s Apprentice
Many photographers out there are self taught, but there is so much value to collaborating and coordinating with someone else. When you and another photographer talk in the shooting process, there is a free flowing exchange of ideas and understanding as long as you fully realize that you are the novice. Another photographer will teach you so much about what it’s like to work in their genre. To be clear, we recommend specifically working with photographers that have gone through their exploration phase and are confident in their own skin.
At the same time though, don’t get abused and set to doing only meager tasks around their studio or in the field. Instead, try to get a meaningful experience from it. It’s best to start when they aren’t on a paid gig of any sort.
What any professional photographer will tell you though is that the best thing to do is to learn the business. What they mean by this is that a photographer needs to learn how to market and be a salesperson more than anything else. Negotiating is also a big part of their daily tasks.
Look Through the Work of Other Photographers
When starting out, budding photographers tend to not look through the work of those who have made it. It’s important to analyze their images, break them down, and find out what made it so appealing. What you’ll eventually find is the absolute most honest and truthful answer: because it appealed to a client.
If it appealed to someone that wanted to pay money for the photos, then it’s bound to also appeal to someone else. Let’s break this down even more:
– Landscapes can be beautiful and someone may want to have a very large print of something in their living room.
– Portraits have so much value. They show what someone looked like at a specific age and they can make someone look more appealing to others.
– Wedding photos not only appease the bride, groom and everyone else at the wedding but may also entice someone else to use you as a wedding photographer in the future providing that you’re in their price range.
Become Fixated on Gear
While the more savvy among us will truthfully tell you that gear doesn’t matter to an extent, you should probably go through a period of being fixated on gear. Really want that blurry background? Then a 50mm f1.8 lens may be what you want.
The main benefit of being fixated on gear comes from the fact that you can learn how what works best for you. Eventually, you’ll figure out that your skills surpass the gear’s capabilities and that it’s you that is creating the images; not the camera or the lens.
Be Brutal On Your Own Photography
One of the toughest things that you need to do is be brutal on your own work. You can easily get to this stage by eventually becoming very routine in your methods to the point where every one of your images looks the same. But what you’ll have to do soon is be your own worst critic. When you look at an image, answer these questions:
– Why would this appeal to someone?
– What makes this image so great?
– Is the story behind this image very clear?
– Why should you include this image in your portfolio?
– Will this image look like your entire portfolio is very slim?
Find a Way to Make Ordinary Things Interesting
Last on this list is a big exercise that every single photographer can benefit from: learning how to make all ordinary things very interesting visually. Is there a way that you can make a park bench, cup of coffee, sock, oven mitt or anything else interesting? Start writing about it and do free word association. Then come up with thoughts and ideas that can be translated into an image.
Do this at least once a month and you’ll be able to find new inspiration all the time.